Golf Course Architecture - Issue 73, July 2023

40 When Stimpson introduced his invention to the world in 1936, the average green speed that he reported was 2.5 feet. In the mid-1970s, the USGA modified Stimpson’s meter, used it to test more than 1,500 greens, and reported that the average speed was 6.5 feet – the fastest were at Oakmont (that course again!), but this time at nine feet and eight inches. Today, seven or eight feet on the Stimp is regarded as unacceptably slow. Most high-end clubs expect greens to Stimp in double figures most of the time, and for Major championships, at least the ones held in the US, the green speed could easily be between 13 and 14 feet. One of the most common reasons why courses are renovated is that the greens have, given modern speeds, become short of places flat enough to locate the pin. According to a chart drawn up by architect Jerry Lemons, once greens run at over 10 feet on the Stimp, any part of a green with much over two per cent slope is a sketchy area to put the flag; given that many Golden Age greens are mostly sloped way above this level, it isn’t hard to see why so many have been changed (some might say ‘emasculated’) in recent years. “Canton Brookside, where I played a lot growing up, has arguably the best Ross greens in America,” says Texas-based architect Kurt Bowman. “They’ve lost around 70 per cent of pinnable area, and the areas they still pin are four to five per cent. It opened in 1921. The lowest height of cut in 1920 was 0.75 inches (19 millimetres).” Scottish architect Stuart Rennie says: “There is a fascination in golf with making greens faster and faster, which in my opinion is not that good for the game. Peter Thomson once said to me that when he first went to St Andrews, he found that hitting the putts harder was much more of a challenge. That’s the sort of attitude we should be promoting today.” GREEN SPEED “ At high-end private facilities, sensible greens speeds are a tough sell, because fast greens are seen as a status symbol” Source: Jerry Lemons Balancing green speed and slope Golf course architect Jerry Lemons has charted recommended slope ranges according to the speed of greens 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 Slope in degrees Stimpmeter green speed (feet) 3.5 4 4.5 5 Critical slope: No hole locations! No holes any closer than 10 to this slope Marginal slope: Use caution! More than 8 around hole should be consistent slope Recommended slope: More than 3 around hole should be consistent slope